Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at a few science fiction magazines’ submission guidelines for short fiction. One of those magazines had a pretty exhaustive list of what it didn’t accept, including the usual things like stories about one’s favorite RP characters and poorly written gorenography. Still, I got to the end of the list and found a term I wasn’t familiar with: trunk stories.
I did some digging.
The term made sense when I did a google search. Trunk stories are those unpublished works that writers cling to, keeping them in a proverbial trunk. They occasionally get brought out, dusted off, and submitted to places – where they get rejected and put back from whence they came. I even found out there are things called trunk novels, which are basically just novels that occupy space in the same trunk.
Of course, this might not seem intuitive to many writers who increasingly store their works digitally. Sending out physical copies of short stories doesn’t seem to be an industry standard in science fiction publications, and with e-pubs proliferating all over the world, I doubt many writers of the future will have a physical trunk to store physical writing in. While it might reduce the size of physical trunks, there will probably be many ones and zeroes in the cloud devoted to e-trunk stories.
Another thought I had was that I might be weird for not holding onto old stories.
All told, I’ve written and finished only a handful of short stories before I started blogging. Most of them were either practice drafts I deleted or school assignments I turned in and forgot about. In the latter category I probably have many more works, but it’s real easy for me to forget about them. Also, I’ve written some stories that I’ve deleted for various reasons. Thus, I can’t really assess how much writing I’ve done since I graduated high school those many moons ago.
I do understand why some people want to hold onto prior works. Writing anything takes time and effort, and some people are quite adept at recording where they’ve been. Part of me wishes I was better at that, because there are some older stories of mine I half-started and never finished, and they probably might turn out nicely if I tried them again. Since I haven’t heard of too many other writers sharing this regret, I might be in a small minority of people that usually looks forward and doesn’t care about the burning bridges behind him.
Fortunately, my time spent blogging has at least informed me that I don’t have to feel any need to cling to any future stories I write. If I write something and can’t get it published, I always have the option of putting it up here for people to enjoy. Just because a magazine or publisher doesn’t like something doesn’t mean it’s a bad story. It just means it won’t get published by those people.
So I don’t think trunk stories are inherently bad or neglected. With today’s publishing options, I think they won’t have to spend time locked away in storage.